The Apple-Amazon-Google Streaming O.S. Mega War

Neal Mohan, the C.E.O. of YouTube.
Neal Mohan, the C.E.O. of YouTube. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Julia Alexander
November 14, 2023

A few months ago, I opined that YouTube was the future of television. That column prompted plenty of healthy conversations and some debate among executives across Hollywood and Silicon Valley—mainly because, as many of them told me, YouTube is one of the few companies that legacy media actually worries about. 

It is, after all, the number one video rival to linear TV and the primary video player for kids, teens, and young adults. Now, with YouTube buying NFL rights, via Sunday Ticket, and making a play for cord-cutters with YouTube TV, it’s become a genuine streaming threat, too. In fact, by bundling free user-generated content, premium video channels, and a digital cable replacement, YouTube is setting itself up to be more powerful than a mere streaming service, but rather a platform upon which all of those other services sit—a veritable operating system for the streaming age.

Interestingly, the market also seems to be underappreciating that the same opportunity for Alphabet is also open to Amazon and Apple: All three are competing to dominate the streaming video ecosystem with hardware and operating systems built into TV sets that effectively replace the traditional distributors, ensuring that their platforms are the entry points for TV viewing globally. To paraphrase NBC’s late, great Heroes: Control the living room, control the video market.